Langston Hughes (1902-1967) was a black American who was a prominent figure in the Harlem Renaissance, a movement that involved the intellectual and cultural revival of the african american arts spanning over the 1920s and 1930s and used his poetry to address some serious issues in an almost light way.
He uses free verse a lot, only occasionally has a rhyme scheme and sometimes merges them. This is influenced by a white man called Walt Whitman’s poems (1819-1892). Hughes’ use of the words ‘song’ and ‘sing’ to mean celebration and his tackling topics relating to democracy, freedom, justice, equality, and dignity for all people were also influenced by the same person.
Hughes’ poems had different moods. For example: ‘Let America Be America Again’, starts off with a patriotic rant which is interrupted by someone who we can assume represents every group of people that have been discriminated against (poor whites, blacks, natives, immigrants, etc). This representative goes on a rant of his own that is filled with anger and resentment.
who said free? not me?
surely not me? the millions on relief today?
the millions shot down when we strike?
the millions who have nothing for our pay?
‘ Let America Be America Again’
‘Life is fine’ is a stark contrast; it has a rhyme scheme, organized stanzas, and even sounds like a blues. It is also funny because it is about how the speaker wants to kill himself. Still, things like the water being cold and the building being too high stops him which makes him realize that he isn’t ready to die or give whoever the satisfaction of his death.
though you may hear me holler,
and you may see me cry–
ill be dogged, sweet baby,
if you gonna see me die.
stanza 8, ‘Life Is Fine’
‘Harlem Sweeties’ is just a light-hearted piece praising black women in a way that would definitely be deemed unacceptable in recent years and has no rhyme scheme or particular structure.
all through the spectrum,
harlem girls vary-
so if you want to know beauty’s
stroll down luscious,
delicious, fine sugar hill
Furthermore, it is not likely that i would revisit this set of poems just because it did not peak my interest.